The last time I was sledding with Casey Lee McLaughlin, she took me out at the knees.
But then my dog rode her and her crazy carpet down the hill, like a snowy surfer, growling at the base of her neck. So that was okay.
McLaughlin loves sledding. Her weapon of choice is a crazy carpet, plummeting down on the hill headfirst. For a little extra speed, she advises coating the bottom with cooking spray.
Clearly, McLaughlin competes fiercely on the crazy carpet.
“Why do it if you’re not going to be faster than your friends?”
She advises the run-and-jump method for starting a crazy carpet. It gives her an advantage, because many of her adult friends are “too cool” to jump like that.
McLaughlin’s first memory of sledding dates back to age six. For her birthday, which happens to fall in the wintery month of February, her dad, Gary, made a luge hill at the Carcross cut-off family cabin.
“In my mind’s eye it was about six miles long,” McLaughlin says.
One aspect of tobogganing that appeals to McLaughlin is its universality; it can be done day or night. During the daytime, enjoy the view. At night, use headlamps, or bask in moonlight.
“You can’t let daylight be a determining factor,” McLaughlin says.
Another benefit? Dogs.
McLaughlin is adamant that dogs love people who toboggan. Typically, dogs don’t slide; they run both ways. And herders can get a little crazy.
“They go into sheep-mode – they have to nip,” McLaughlin says. “My crazy carpet has bite marks all over it from Wednesday’s little fangs.”
Wednesday is her border collie. Wednesday runs and barks while she slides. As such, McLaughlin advises goggles, because a running dog kicks up a lot of snow in front of you if you’re at crazy carpet-level. I got a face full of snow from Wednesday’s heels, myself.
And while it is fun, tobogganing also gives you a workout.
“You slog up the hill with all your snow gear on, snow up your socks, tuque up your nose – depending what kind of wipe out you did,” McLaughlin says.
Exercise is either motivated by the desire to slide again, or by the need to sprint out of the way of your dangerous friends.
So where are the hotspots in town?
McLaughlin has a hill close to her home near the Kulan Industrial area, where her partner Kyle Cameron makes jumps using his front-end loader. Sometimes they leap with crazy carpets right out of the loader bucket.
While that’s handy, McLaughlin opines that the best hill in town is Haeckel Hill. This hill is accessible from Fish Lake Road, but she says a skidoo is needed to get from the parking area to the tobogganing launch point.
There’s a run that goes straight down through the woods. It’s a steep drop, and McLaughlin goes down screaming, while often taking air.
To top it off, sometimes she wears her bike helmet for goofiness points.
“Adults need to do more of this kind of silly stuff,” McLaughlin says. “What’s better than laughing at your friends? There’s nothing funnier than a 40-year-old wiping out.
“I’m going to be tobogganing until I die. So look out kids: Grandma’s coming.”
McLaughlin often entices friends to her house for a dinner party, with sledding beforehand. Then they come in with rosy cheeks and good appetites.
McLaughlin’s final tip:
“At the top of the hill, be aware of who’s at the bottom – so you know who you can knock out…” she says.